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Yu Chen, Hongshi Yu, Andrew J Pask, Asao Fujiyama, Yutaka Suzuki, Sumio Sugano, Geoff Shaw and Marilyn B Renfree

The development of the mammalian phallus involves hormone-dependent mesenchymal–epithelial signalling mechanisms that contribute to urethral closure and regulation of phallus elongation and growth. In marsupials, most differentiation and growth of the phallus occurs post-natally, making them amenable to direct hormone treatment. Expression of IGFs, FGFs, EFNB2, MAFB, DLX5 and AP-1 mRNAs in the phallus at day 50 post-partum (pp) were altered after treatment of tammar wallaby young from day 20 to 40 pp with androgen, oestrogen or after castration at day 25 pp. However, the most interesting changes occurred in the IGF pathway genes. Androgen treatment upregulated IGF1 in female phalluses and oestrogen treatment upregulated IGF1 in male phalluses, but it was downregulated by castration. IGFBP3 was higher in female phalluses and downregulated by androgen. IGF1 expression was higher in all untreated male than in female phalluses from day 50 to 150 pp, but IGFBP3 had the reverse pattern. At day 90 pp, when urethral closure in males is progressing and male phallus growth is accelerating. IGF1 and PCNA protein were only detected in the male urorectal septum, suggesting for the first time that closure and elongation may involve IGF1 activation of cell proliferation specifically in male phalluses. These effects of sex steroids on gene expression and on the IGF1 signalling pathway in particular, suggest that the developing phallus may be especially susceptible to perturbation by exogenous hormones.

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Liuhong Yang, Lei Chen, Xiaosheng Lu, Anni Tan, Yao Chen, Yalan Li, Xuemei Peng, Shaochun Yuan, Dongqing Cai and Yanhong Yu

Peri-ovarian adipose tissue (POAT) is a kind of intra-abdominal white adipose tissue that is present surrounding the ovaries in rodents. Recent studies demonstrated that POAT-deficient mice displayed a phenotype of delayed antral follicular development, for which decreases in serum estrogen, serum FSH and FSHR levels were responsible. However, folliculogenesis is regulated by endocrine signals and also modulated by a number of locally produced intraovarian factors whose acts are both autocrine and paracrine. Here, we used a model of surgical removal of POAT unilaterally and contralateral ovaries as controls, as both were under the same endocrine control, to assess the paracrine effect of the POAT on folliculogenesis. Surgical removal of unilateral POAT resulted in delayed antral follicular development and the increased number of atretic follicles, accompanied by decreased levels of intraovarian adipokines and growth factors, lipid accumulation and steroidogenic enzyme expression. POAT-deficient ovaries displayed compensatory increased expressions of intraovarian genes, such as Vegf and Adpn for angiogenesis, Acc, Fasn, and Gapdh involved in lipogenesis and Fshr in response to FSH stimulation. Furthermore, we demonstrated that removal of POAT promoted follicular apoptosis, caused retention of cytoplasmic YAP and inhibited PTEN-AKT-mTOR activation. These alterations were observed only in the POAT-deficient ovaries but not in the contralateral ovaries (with POAT), which suggests that a paracrine interaction between POAT and ovaries is important for normal folliculogenesis.

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Yu-Qian Wang, Aalia Batool, Su-Ren Chen and Yi-Xun Liu

Reduced contractility of the testicular peritubular myoid (PTM) cells may contribute to human male subfertility or infertility. Transcription factor GATA4 in Sertoli and Leydig cells is essential for murine spermatogenesis, but limited attention has been paid to the potential role of GATA4 in PTM cells. In primary cultures of mouse PTM cells, siRNA knockdown of GATA4 increased the contractile activity, while GATA4 overexpression significantly attenuated the contractility of PTM cells using a collagen gel contraction assay. Using RNA sequencing and qRT-PCR, we identified a set of genes that exhibited opposite expressional alternation between Gata4 siRNA vs nontargeting siRNA-treated PTM cells and Gata4 adenovirus vs control adenovirus-treated PTM cells. Notably, ion channels, smooth muscle function, cytokines and chemokines, cytoskeleton, adhesion and extracellular matrix were the top four enriched pathways, as revealed by cluster analysis. Natriuretic peptide type B (NPPB) content was significantly upregulated by GATA4 overexpression in both PTM cells and their culture supernatant. More importantly, the addition of 100 μM NPPB could abolish the promoting effect of Gata4 silencing on PTM cell contraction. Taken together, we suggest that the inhibitory action of GATA4 on PTM cell contraction is mediated at least partly by regulating genes belonging to smooth muscle contraction pathway (e.g. Nppb).

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Zhen-Yu Zheng, Qing-Zhang Li, Da-Yuan Chen, Heide Schatten and Qing-Yuan Sun

The protein kinase Cs (PKCs) are a family of Ser/Thr protein kinases categorized into three subfamilies: classical, novel, and atypical. The phosphorylation of PKC in germ cells is not well defined. In this study, we described the subcellular localization of phopho-PKC in the process of mouse oocyte maturation, fertilization, and early embryonic mitosis. Confocal microscopy revealed that phospho-PKC (pan) was distributed abundantly in the nucleus at the germinal vesicle stage. After germinal vesicle breakdown, phospho-PKC was localized in the vicinity of the condensed chromosomes, distributed in the whole meiotic spindle, and concentrated at the spindle poles. After metaphase I, phospho-PKC was translocated gradually to the spindle mid-zone during emission of the first polar body. After sperm penetration and electrical activation, the distribution of phospho-PKC was moved from the spindle poles to the spindle mid-zone. After the extrusion of the second polar body (PB2) phospho-PKC was localized in the area between the oocyte and the PB2. In fertilized eggs, phospho-PKC was concentrated in the pronuclei except for the nucleolus. Phospho-PKC was dispersed after pronuclear envelope breakdown, but distributed on the entire spindle at mitotic metaphase. The results suggest that PKC activation may play important roles in regulating spindle organization and stabilization, polar-body extrusion, and nuclear activity during mouse oocyte meiosis, fertilization, and early embryonic mitosis.

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Li-Jun Huo, Cheng-Guang Liang, Ling-Zhu Yu, Zhi-Sheng Zhong, Zeng-Ming Yang, Heng-Yu Fan, Da-Yuan Chen and Qing-Yuan Sun

The present study investigated the subcellular localization of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) during mouse oocyte meiotic maturation and fertilization using confocal microscopy, and further studied the roles of iNOS-derived NO in oocyte maturation by using an iNOS-specific inhibitor aminoguanidine (AG) and iNOS antibody microinjection. In germinal vesicle-stage oocytes, iNOS immunoreactivity was mainly localized in the germinal vesicle. Shortly after germinal vesicle breakdown, the iNOS immunoreactivity accumulated around the condensed chromosomes. At metaphase I and metaphase II, with the organization of chromosomes to the equatorial plate, iNOS immunoreactivity was concentrated around the aligned chromosomes, putatively the position of the metaphase spindle. The accumulation of iNOS immunoreactivity could not be detected at anaphase I and anaphase II. However, at telophase I and telophase II, the staining of iNOS was concentrated in the region between the separating chromosomes/chromatids. Furthermore, the staining of iNOS also accumulated in the male and female pronuclei in fertilized eggs. Germinal vesicle breakdown and the first polar body emission of the oocytes were significantly blocked by the iNOS-specific inhibitor AG in a dose-dependent manner. The germinal vesicle breakdown in oocytes injected with iNOS antibody was also inhibited. We found that the phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase in oocytes after germinal vesicle breakdown was inhibited by AG treatment. The control oocytes extruded a normal first polar body, while the AG-treated oocytes exhibited an elongated protrusion or no elongated protrusion. The results of confocal microscopy showed that the AG-treated oocytes were arrested at anaphase I–telophase I. Our results suggest that the iNOS-derived NO pathway plays important roles in mouse oocyte meiotic maturation, especially in germinal vesicle breakdown and the anaphase–telophase transition.

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Wei Wang, Xia Chen, Xinxiu Li, Li Wang, Haiyan Zhang, Yu He, Jingjing Wang, Yongyan Zhao, Baole Zhang and Yinxue Xu

FSH plays a critical role in granulosa cell (GC) proliferation and steroidogenesis through modulation by factors including bone morphogenetic proteins family, which belongs to transforming growth factor β (TGFB) superfamily. TGFBs are the key factors in maintaining cell growth and differentiation in ovaries. However, the interaction of FSH and TGFB on the GCs' proliferation and steroidogenesis remains to be elucidated. In this study, we have investigated the role of SMAD4, a core molecule mediating the intracellular TGFB/SMAD signal transduction pathway, in FSH-mediated proliferation and steroidogenesis of porcine GCs. In this study, SMAD4 was knocked down using interference RNA in porcine GCs. Our results showed that SMAD4-siRNA causes specific inhibition of SMAD4 mRNA and protein expression after transfection. Knockdown of SMAD4 significantly inhibited FSH-induced porcine GC proliferation and estradiol production and changed the expression of cyclin D2, CDK2, CDK4, CYP19a1, and CYP11a1. Thus, these observations establish an important role of SMAD4 in the regulation of the response of porcine GCs to FSH.

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Jianfeng Yao, Lixia Geng, Rongfu Huang, Weilin Peng, Xuan Chen, Xiaohong Jiang, Miao Yu, Ming Li, Yanfang Huang and Xiaoyu Yang

Vitrification of embryos is a routine procedure in IVF (in vitro fertilization) laboratories. In the present study, we aimed to investigate the effect of vitrification on mouse preimplantation embryo development in vitro, and effect on the epigenetic status of imprinted gene Grb10 in mouse embryos. The blastocyst formation rate for vitrified 8-cell embryos was similar to the non-vitrified 8-cell embryos, whereas the blastocyst hatching rate was lower than that of the non-vitrified group. The expression level of Grb10 major-type transcript decreased significantly in vitrified blastocysts compared with non-vitrified and in vivo blastocysts. Moreover, the global DNA methylation level in 8-cell embryos and blastocysts, and the DNA methylation at CpG island 1 (CGI1) of Grb10 in blastocysts were also significantly decreased after vitrification. In vitro culture condition had no adverse effect, except for on the DNA methylation in Grb10 CGI1. These results suggest that vitrification may reduce the in vitro development of mouse 8-cell embryos and affect the expression and DNA methylation of imprinted gene Grb10.

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Yang Yu, Chenhui Ding, Eryao Wang, Xinjie Chen, Xuemei Li, Chunli Zhao, Yong Fan, Liu Wang, Nathalie Beaujean, Qi Zhou, Alice Jouneau and Weizhi Ji

Even though it generates healthy adults, nuclear transfer in mammals remains an inefficient process. Mainly attributed to abnormal reprograming of the donor chromatin, this inefficiency may also be caused at least partly by a specific effect of the cloning technique which has not yet been well investigated. There are two main procedures for transferring nuclei into enucleated oocytes: fusion and piezoelectric microinjection, the latter being used mostly in mice. We have, therefore, decided to compare the quality and the developmental ability, both in vivo and in vitro, of embryos reconstructed with electrofusion or piezoelectric injection. In addition, the effect of piezo setups of differing electric strengths was investigated. Along with the record of the rate of development, we compared the nuclear integrity in the blastomeres during the first cleavages as well as the morphological and cellular quality of the blastocysts. Our results show that the piezo-assisted micromanipulation can induce DNA damage in the reconstructed embryos, apoptosis, and reduced cell numbers in blastocysts as well as a lower rate of development to term. Even if piezo-driven injection facilitates a faster and more efficient rate of reconstruction, it should be used with precaution and with as low parameters as possible.

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Pan-Pan Cheng, Jun-Jie Xia, Hai-Long Wang, Ji-Bing Chen, Fei-Yu Wang, Ye Zhang, Xin Huang, Quan-Jun Zhang and Zhong-Quan Qi

Maternal diabetes adversely affects preimplantation embryo development and oocyte maturation. Thus, it is important to identify ways to eliminate the effects of maternal diabetes on preimplantation embryos and oocytes. The objectives of this study were to investigate whether islet transplantation could reverse the effects of diabetes on oocytes. Our results revealed that maternal diabetes induced decreased ovulation; increased the frequency of meiotic spindle defects, chromosome misalignment, and aneuploidy; increased the relative expression levels of Mad2 and Bub1; and enhanced the sensitivity of oocytes to parthenogenetic activation. Islet transplantation prevented these detrimental effects. Therefore, we concluded that islet transplantation could reverse the effects of diabetes on oocytes, and that this technique may be useful to treat the fundamental reproductive problems of women with diabetes mellitus.

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Chi-Huang Chen, Yu-Chi Yeh, Gwo-Jang Wu, Yen-Hua Huang, Wen-Fu Thomas Lai, Jah-Yao Liu and Chii-Ruey Tzeng

The applications of in vivo bioluminescent imaging (BLI) with a luciferase reporter gene occur widely across biomedical fields. Luciferase-transgenic mice are highly useful donors for tracking transplanted ovarian tissues. Realizing the full potential of this system may greatly benefit the study of the physiological behaviour and function of transplanted grafts, and the rapid and reliable evaluation of new transplantation protocols. The ovarian tissues of donor FVB/N-Tg(PolII–Luc)Ltc transgenic mice, with a luciferase transgene as the reporter, were transplanted into iso/allogeneic recipients. Rejection, ovarian function and BLI were quantitatively analysed in vivo over time. The BLI of the ovarian isografts revealed longer survival than that of allografts, even with cyclosporine A (CsA) treatment. The CD4+/CD8+ ratios of peripheral T-cells were significantly reduced in allografts compared with those in isografts (P<0.0001) during rejection, whereas CD19+ cell numbers were higher in allografts. The infiltration of CD4+/CD8+ cells into the graft was unremarkable in isografts from day 1, but was strong in allografts from day 8 onwards. Hormone activity revealed complete oestrus cycles in the isografts but only the dioestrus stage in the allografts. These results demonstrate that BLI in vivo expedites the fast throughput and fate maps of ovarian grafts. The use of BLI to longitudinally monitor ovarian grafts for immunorejection demonstrated the short survival of allografts and the much longer survival of isografts. CsA treatment alone is ineffective against the acute rejection of ovarian allografts.